Moon Called
by Patricia Briggs
304pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.18/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.25/5

Moon Called is the first book in the popular Mercedes Thompson urban fantasy series by New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs. This book is followed by Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, and Bone Crossed (which was just released in hardcover last month). When completed, the series will contain at least seven books. Briggs is also writing the Alpha and Omega series set in the same world.

Mechanic Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is a walker, meaning she can shapeshift into a coyote. This ability was inherited from her Native American father, who died before Mercy was born. Unsure of how to deal with a baby that turns into a coyote pup, Mercy’s mother had a werewolf pack take her in and raise her. Unlike the werewolves, vampires, and various fae that surround her, Mercy is the only one of her kind she knows about. Although walkers have an enhanced sense of smell and can move quickly when in coyote form, they lack the strength and pack mentality of the werewolf.

One day when Mercy is working on a car at her shop, a teenage werewolf comes to her seeking employment. Mercy hires Mac against her better judgment and quickly discovers her instincts were correct when he is attacked by a couple of other werewolves. After Mercy kills one of these wolves, she realizes she is in over her head and calls her neighbor Adam, alpha of the area’s werewolf pack. Mac reveals to Mercy and Mac that he had been used in experiments for a drug created specifically for subduing werewolves, and Adam takes Mac under his protection. Shortly thereafter, Adam’s home is attacked, leaving both him and his teenage daughter in danger. Mercy does her best to help them, putting her right in the middle of a mystery and leading to the necessity of confronting the past she left behind years ago.


This is only the second book I have read of the werewolf/vampire/fae variety that is in vogue at the moment. Although the cover frightened me, I was easily hooked once I started reading and even bought the next one when I was around the halfway point. I actually bought it at the bookstore instead of ordering it in spite of the fact that it had an even more embarrassingly degrading cover that made me feel like the clerk at Borders was probably laughing at me. (The first one is pretty bad, but the second one has Mercy’s bra hanging out and makes her look like a complete harlot, which she is not unless she undergoes some sort of drastic personality transplant in the next few books.)

The world was modern day but populated by various paranormal races, unknown to most humans. I very much enjoyed the development of the werewolves and pack politics, although most of this was conveyed as info dumps through Mercy’s thoughts as the narrator, which seemed rather clumsy since one would not expect someone who knows these facts so well to be explaining them to herself so often. At times, there does seem to be a lot of exposition but it does aid with understanding what is happening.

The various supernatural races are potentially dangerous instead of seeming like humans with unusual abilities. When Mercy visits the vampires, it is done hesitantly and with much trepidation. Even the werewolves, who often seem like nice guys, can be fearful to those they care about under the right circumstances. They’re not evil, but they do have that animal part of them.

I loved reading about Mercy as a character. She is strong and independent but without being mouthy or overly sarcastic. Instead of rushing into perilous situations, she analyzes the situation first and stays out of the way if she realizes she can’t do anything to help. This does not mean she never takes risks, but when she does they tend to be for the sake of helping those she cares about and it never seems like she is being reckless. Mercy is not all powerful and she knows it. Her viewpoint is fun to read (when its not bogged down with fae trivia) and there are some great little details about her, such as the logic that leads her to carry around a lamb necklace instead of a cross.

There is a love triangle with Mercy, her neighbor, and her old flame, but it is not excessive (and there is no sex in spite of what the covers may lead one to believe). I thought Briggs struck just the right balance of having a little bit of romantic tension without overdoing it and making me wish she would get on with the rest of the story. Mercy is very practical and real – of course she has feelings but she does not brood over the men in her life and they are not all she thinks about. She’s practical, straightforward and doesn’t play games, and I liked that about her. There are some werewolf dominance/possession issues she deals with since they have long lives and have become used to a patriarchal society after centuries, but she tends to think they need to learn some enlightenment about a woman’s place in society.

Other than some violent and dark occurrences, this novel is a very clean book. In addition to not containing sex, swearing is minimal and normally only alluded to instead of specified. Even when spelled out, the only swear I remember being specifically used is “damn.” Mercy attends church and is somewhat religious, although she is not a complete prude (she’ll undress in front of men when she needs to change to a coyote without a second thought).

Moon Called is a highly entertaining, quick read with lots of adventure and mystery, a hint of romance, and a great female lead. I’m now hooked and will also have to look into some of Patricia Briggs’s older novels.

7.5/10

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

Mar
07
2009

Watchmen
by Alan Moore
416pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.49/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.48/5

Watchmen is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It won a Hugo Award and is heralded as one of Time Magazine‘s 100 best novels of any medium. Like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series (the only other graphic novels I have read other than a little bit of manga), Watchmen proved to me that graphic novels can be as literary and brilliant with as complex a plot and characterization as any novel – and even more so than many. It’s very impressive that a story containing so few words can contain so much detail and depth. Watchmen contains a mystery, character study, social commentary, and a love story, while challenging the traditional superhero comic archetypes.

The story takes place in an alternative mid-1980s in which costumed vigilantes formed the Crimebusters group and fought crime until this was outlawed by the Keene Act in 1977. Now most of the few former heroes who remain have retired from the business of saving the world, other than a couple who work for the government and Rorschach, who has a strong belief in his idea of justice and refuses to give up. The costumed heroes are ordinary people who have no superpowers with the exception of Dr. Manhattan, who gained godlike powers through an accident at the nuclear research laboratory he worked at. The U.S. government uses him to their advantage to keep Soviet Russia under control.

The novel throws readers right into the story with the investigation of the murder of one of the vigilantes, Edward Blake–also known as The Comedian. Once the detectives leave the scene of the crime, Rorschach does some poking around of his own and then proceeds to warn the other former Crimebusters that he believes any one of them could be next. Known for his general craziness and paranoia, the other vigilantes dismiss Rorschach’s warnings until one of them is attacked.


Watchmen is broken up into 12 chapters with each separated by an essay, novel excerpt, or newspaper clipping providing some further insight. The first chapter introduces the various characters as Rorschach visits them to inform them of the death of The Comedian. From there, the story moves forward but is interspersed with many flashbacks about the history of the various characters that fleshes out each of them with very vivid personalities.
  • Rorschach has a fanatical belief in right and wrong and perceives the world around him as very black and white. He’ll take any measures to make sure his concept of justice is carried out, regardless of means. Excerpts from his journal tells a lot about his worldview and how he thinks.
  • Dr. Manhattan is no longer fully human and is becoming more and more detached from humanity. What would you expect of a glowing blue guy who can manipulate matter and has no concept of linear time?
  • Nite Owl is a middle aged, overall quiet well-mannered nice guy who took over after the first Nite Owl retired. Although he’s retired, he has a room for all his dusty gadgets and airship. Although he’s the most clearly “good” of all the characters, he was still well done.
  • Silk Spectre II resents being pressured into becoming a hero by her mother, the first Silk Spectre, and being kept around by the military for the sole purpose of keeping Dr. Manhattan happy. (She is the one I felt had the least depth of all the characters even though she is present a lot and seems important, since she seems to exist mainly for interactions with the other characters. For instance, she often serves as a plot device to cause Dr. Manhattan to act. Much of the time she seems very angry and whiny, which is to be expected from someone harboring as much resentment as she does, but it does get annoying at times. However, I did enjoy her scenes with her mother and Nite Owl.)
  • Ozymandias is a well-known, wealthy businessman and the world’s most intelligent man. His personal hero is Alexander the Great.
  • The Comedian was obnoxious, arrogant, and ill-mannered, and even attempted raping the first Silk Spectre. Yet Rorschach muses that he’s the only one who really seems to get the joke that is life.

What I loved about the characters is that each had a clear motivation for their actions and never seemed out of character. Not only were we told that Ozymandias was intelligent but we were shown he was. Even the darker characters were not completely evil and showed glimmers of goodness and humanity.

Watchmen asks a lot of questions, some serious and some somewhat humorous. The most famous of course is “Who watches the watchmen?” but it also dwells on what type of person would decide to don a costume to fight crime and the impracticality of capes. Instead of the “heroes” being merely good people who want justice in the world, they tend to be mentally imbalanced or egotistical and flamboyant personalities. Are these really the types of people who should have power and be held up on a pedestal? Do the fair and right causes they take on justify the rough means they sometimes take to get there? Is enough good done by them to balance out the bad aspects of these flawed crimefighters?

Since the background of the characters and the important aspects of the story are slowly revealed, Watchmen makes more sense once you get to the end. For most of the novel, I enjoyed it but also found myself wondering what the big deal was. Once I got to the end, everything fit together beautifully and it’s one of those rare books that grew on me more and more after I was finished with it. Normally, the memory of a book fades over time and if I tend to feel differently about it later, I like it less than I did initially. This is one I could reread and probably come away with a lot more than the first reading.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the end. I do not want to give too much away but the ending was perfect and the revelation of the villain and his speech was such a great moment and a great twist on the stereotypical bad guy.

Watchmen is dark, cynical and amazing with excellent characters, a riveting plot, and some thoughtful themes. It’s a novel for the reread pile.

9/10

The Suvudu Free Book Library has the first book in 5 different series available for download. They have some books that sound pretty good available too:

  • Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
  • Settling Accounts: Return Engagements by Harry Turtledove
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (really want to read this)
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (the first book in one of my favorite series)

To find out how I (and several other bloggers) would serve justice, head on over to the Watchmen Weekend Celebration at The Book Smugglers.

(Speaking of which, I cannot wait for the movie. I loved the graphic novel and will be reviewing it in the next 2 or 3 days.)

The Charmed Sphere
by Catherine Asaro
384pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 3.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.35/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.61/5

The Charmed Sphere is written by Catherine Asaro, who is best known for her Skolian Saga series of space opera. This is the first book in the Misted Cliffs series, currently comprised of five romantic fantasy novels and the story “Moonglow” from the Charmed Destinies collection. I have enjoyed the three Skolian novels I have read, and I found The Charmed Sphere entertaining, although a lot simpler and lighter than Asaro’s science fiction.

When Chime hears that the king is coming to her town, she does not run outside to watch the procession by the street but instead climbs a tree where she can watch discreetly – or so she thinks. The Mage Mistress Della No-Cozen senses Chime’s presence and shape mage abilities when she rides by despite the young woman’s efforts to hide. Later Della visits Chime, who is the strongest mage of her generation and whom she has discovered at a time when they are difficult to find. Although Chime is reluctant to leave her home, Della persuades her to marry the king’s heir so she can one day become queen, who leads as a strong shape mage and helps protect the country against its neighboring enemy. Neither Chime nor her groom-to-be are happy with the idea of marrying a stranger until they actually meet and discover they are very attracted to one another.

Chime begins learning about spellcasting from Della No-Cozen but has difficulty memorizing and recalling the information she is taught. Soon she is joined by a second apprentice, Iris, who also has potential to be a strong mage. While Iris has a much easier time with explaining how magic works, she has far more trouble than Chime with actually managing to cast a spell and is thought to be weaker than her predecessor. However, once Iris overcomes her obstacles and uses her power, it is apparent that she is the stronger of the two and would be better suited to be queen – and Chime is reduced to second best.


The Charmed Sphere is a fluffy, easy to read story that had me turning the pages. One problem I did have at the beginning of the story was that the names were cheesy and reeked of trying too hard to sound like fantasy names – Varqelle the Cowled, Anvil the Forged, Chime Headwind. When the king’s heir was introduced at the beginning of chapter two as “Muller Startower Heptacorn Dawnfield,” I nearly put the book down and started something else. (Fortunately, he is just referred to as “Muller” after that.)

This novel was fairly traditional fantasy – mages, royalty, warriors, and a “good” side and a “bad” side complete with a villain who needed to be foiled. I did appreciate that there was an actual magic system, although it was relayed through the often-used method of an instructor explaining to a student. Spellcasting was done by focusing on a shape with more powerful mages able to use more complex shapes. Mage ability was based on the colors of the rainbow with stronger magic users able to use more colors. For example, Chime and Della were both green mages, meaning they could do red, orange, yellow, and green spells. Blue mages like Iris could use all the colors a green mage could plus blue. Each color was associated with a type of magic, such as blue for healing and green for empathy. Mages tended to be best at spells involving the highest level color they could do, making Chime best at feeling and soothing emotions.

It was Chime and Muller who carried the story for me. Chime began as a very powerful woman who was going to become the most important woman in the country, only to have all that turned upside down. She had the potential to be amazing yet had struggles with learning instead of picking up everything easily. In fact, many considered her to be stupid since she did have trouble with memorization. Muller was also flawed with unusual power that no one believed he had and that he found difficult to control. Together, Chime and Muller were very entertaining – Chime is stubborn and immovable and Muller was terribly vain and obsessed with his appearance before Chime shook things up for him. To listen to them, you would think they hated each other but they very obviously do not.

This was a fun book to read but I did feel it was not a particularly well-written one. As I mentioned earlier, the names were rather distracting and we were also told several times that “Muller brooded,” which I found annoying in a show-don’t-tell sort of way. In spite of Della’s status as king’s advisor and an expert in magic, she did seem somewhat uninformed about some aspects of the subject’s history that it seemed like she should have known. She told Chime that some types of magic were only rumors and myths yet later it turned out someone she would have known had those abilities. Mages were scarce at this point in time, but it did seem like an awful lot of people with strange twists to their powers that had not been seen before in recent history kept popping up. Perhaps this is explained in later books, but it seemed odd to me that so many of the main characters had unusual mage powers that the “experts” had not seen nor heard of before.

The Charmed Sphere did not strike me as a technically good book but it was absorbing enough to keep me wanting to know what happened next, particularly since I did care about what happened to Chime. I’ll be reading the next book, although it is not one I must rush out and buy immediately.

7/10


Hope’s Folly
, the third book in Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five series, is out today. The copy I pre-ordered is now on its way! This one is about Philip instead of Chaz and Sully. As much as I liked Philip, I’m a little worried he’ll be too normal and uncomplicated to carry a whole book for me (which is why I preferred Gabriel’s Ghost/Shades of Dark over An Accidental Goddess – the characters in the latter were much more normal with fewer complicated, darker issues than the former). Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Over the weekend, I started a review on Catherine Asaro’s The Charmed Sphere, the first book in The Misted Cliff fantasy series. It looks like I may not have a lot of time to make progress on it this week, unfortunately – but I’m hoping I’m wrong about that. The next books in the review queue after that one are:

  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (had to read this before the movie came out)
  • A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (I’m about halfway through this one now and really enjoying it now that it’s gotten going)

After Moon Called, I’ll be starting Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower in preparation for the March Blogger Book Club.